-In the 8 NAPA Spring Sizzlers run since 2006, only 4 drivers, Doug Coby, Donny Lia, Ted Christopher, and Doug Coby, have visited victory lane. But one driver who has quietly put in some great Sizzler performances and is on the verge of breaking into that Sizzler winners club is Huntingdon Valley, PA native Rowan Pennink. In only 6 career Sizzler starts, Pennink has accumulated 3 top-5 and 4 top-10 finishes with a career best finish of second in 2011. Coming off a win in the 2013 season ending race, Pennink is feeling good about his chances of putting his #93 Monk Mechanics Hand Cleaner Chevrolet into NAPA Victory Lane.
"I think we're looking real good," said Pennink. "We have 2 cars together and we're working on a third car. I'm excited for the season after we ended last season the way we did. We had some real strong runs in the last couple races and I'm looking to continue on that note and see if we can't bang out some more good races at the start of the year. Last time at Stafford we had a real strong car but it wasn't quite as strong as a couple other guys. I think we've hit on a couple of things with the car and I hope we can go to Stafford and win. I've been real close before and hopefully this will be the year we nail a win down. The Sizzler is one race that everyone wants to win and winning that race would mean a lot to me. I always wanted to win the World Series at Thompson and we got that out of the way last year and I can't wait to get to Stafford to see what we can do."
While some drivers made the trip to Florida in February to race at Daytona or New Smyrna, Pennink kept his skills sharp by participating in a pair of Indoor TQ Midget races in Atlantic City and Trenton.
"I ended up racing a TQ midget in the indoor races at Atlantic City and Trenton," said Pennink. "We ran pretty good but the results we had didn't show how well we ran. Racing those things is about as crazy as a race as you're going to get and it helps keep you on your toes since reaction time is everything with those cars. We didn't go down to Florida this year so we made sure to be racing something this winter."
Pennink will have several factors in his favor as he chases his first career Sizzler checkered flag. The longer race distance of 200 laps opens up the race to different strategies and the longer distance fits Pennink's driving style nicely. Pennink can also lean on his SK Modified® experience as he made a return to the division last season for the first time since the 2007 season.
"We normally do something a little different with the car setup for the day races versus the night races," said Pennink. "Being 200 laps, I like the longer races because they suit my driving style and it brings more pit strategy into the race. When the races are 150 laps, everybody wants to pit at the same time but with 50 extra laps, people change up their strategy and it brings a different aspect to the game. The SK experience last season was good for me. Any time you're running around a track like Stafford, which is one of the hardest tracks to drive, finding little things like managing your driving line can definitely help you out when you get into the tour car."
Although Pennink had a string of bad races last season, he tied his career best finish in the points standings by finishing fourth. After winning the Modified Racing Series championship last season, Pennink says if he can get some luck on his side this season, he can be a contender for the Whelen Modified Tour championship as well this season.
"Our goal is to be racing for the championship at the end of the year," said Pennink. "We've had a strong team the last couple years and we finished fourth last year. We had a streak of bad races at the end of the year but looking back if we had finished in the top-15 in each of our bad races we would have been right there for the championship. We flipped the car at Thompson and at Bristol we had a flat tire on the first lap and got caught up in a wreck. We just need to have a little bit better luck this year and do things a little bit differently than we did last year and I think we could be right there."
The 43rd Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler gets underway Friday, April 25 with a practice session for Stafford's weekly divisions. The practice session will be open to the public at no charge. The run for the Coors Light Pole position gets underway on Saturday, April 26 with time trials for the Whelen Modified Tour cars, along with heat and consolation races for Stafford's weekly divisions. In the 34 Spring Sizzler events run since 1980, the fast qualifier has gone on to win the race only 8 times. Saturday will conclude with feature events for the SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions as well as a feature event for the Northeast Mini Stocks. The Sizzler concludes on Sunday, April 27 with the NAPA Auto Parts Pit Party followed by Stafford's SK Modifieds® and Late Models joining the Whelen Modified Tour in feature action.
Tickets for the "Greatest Race in the History of Spring" are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $38.50 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. All tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission.